Quote of the Week Selections, First Quarter, 2002
prior quotes

020328, Quote #249:
The Result of Receptivity

John Berger , from the essay, "Steps Towards a Small Theory of the Visible," published in The Shape of a Pocket, Pantheon Books, 2001.

Taken from an exerpt of the essay published in Harper's Magazine titled "Another Way of Seeing," March, 2002, pp. 29 - 32.

How did you become what you visibly are? asks the painter.

I am as I am. I'm waiting, replies the mountain or the mouse or the child.

What for?

For you, if you abandon everything else.

For how long?

For as long as it takes.

There are other things in life.

Find them and be more normal.

And if I don't?

I'll give you what I've given nobody else, but it's worthless; it's simply the answer to your useless question.


I am as I am.

No promise more than that?

None. I can wait forever.

I'd like a normal life.

Live it and don't count on me.

And if I do count on you?

Forget everything and in me you'll find—me!

The collaboration which sometimes follows is seldom based on goodwill: more usually on desire, rage, fear, pity, or longing. The modern illusion concerning painting (which postmodernism has done nothing to correct) is that the artist is a creator. Rather he is a receiver. What seems like creation is the act of giving form to what has been received.

020318, Quote #248:
A Whisper of the Stars

Paul Zindel , The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds, Bantam Books, 1973.

 He told me to look at my hand, for a part of it came from a star that exploded too long ago to imagine. This part of me was formed from a tongue of fire that screamed through the heavens until there was our sun. And this part of me - - this tiny part of me - - was on the sun when it itself exploded and whirled in a great storm until the planets came to be. And this small part of me was then a whisper of the earth. When there was life, perhaps this small part of me got lost in a fern that was crushed and covered until it was coal. And then it was a diamond millions of years later - - it must have been a diamond as beautiful as the star from which it had first come. Or perhaps this part of me became lost in a terrible beast, or became part of a huge bird that flew above the primeval swamps. And then he said this thing was so small - - this part of me was so small it couldn't be seen - - but it was there from the beginning of the world. And he called this bit of me an atom. And when he wrote the word, I fell in love with it. Atom. Atom. What a beautiful word.

020311, Quote #247:
The Innate Artist in Each

Jostein Gaardner , Sophie's World: A Novel About the History of Philosophy, p. 442, Berkeley Books, 1994.

 "In a sense, Freud demonstrated that there is an artist in everyone. A dream is, after all, a little work of art, and there are new dreams every night. In order to interpret his patients' dreams, Freud often had to work his way through a dense language of symbols—rather in the way we interpret a picture or literary text."

 "And we dream every single night?"

 "Recent research shows that we dream for about twenty percent of our sleeping hours, that is, between one and two hours each night. If we are disturbed during our dream phases we become nervous and irritable. This means nothing less than that everybody has an innate need to give artistic expression to his or her existential situation. After all, it is ourselves that our dreams are about. We are the directors, we set up the scenario and play all the roles. A person who says he doesn't understand art doesn't know himself very well."

020302, Quote #246:
What Teacher's Teach

Robert Grudin , Time and the Art of Living, p. 110, Houghton Mifflin, 1982.

 Every teacher, whether he knows it or not, teaches three things at once: the subject under investigation, the art of investigation and the art of teaching. The two latter teachings, which concern method rather than matter, are more subtle, more lasting, and more important. We teach them by patient and unadvertised repitition, showing through time how the same method works in a variety of cases. Only through this combination of coherence and variety can the student grasp the nature of method — abstract it and see it as something distinct from the specific subject matter and the specific character of the teacher. More advanced students should be shown how a variety of methods can be applied to the same subject. Both these levels of teaching are like perambulations, walkings around an object in an effort to comprehend its dimensions and form. In the first case, we walk around method itself; in the second, we walk around a subject. In a third and still higher form of learning, we seek a master method, discovering through repetition and abstraction what all valid methods have in common.

020222, Quote #245:
Patching Over the Whole

Ralph D. Stacey, Complex Responsive Processes in Organizations: Learning and Knowledge Creation, pp. 178 - 179, Routledge, 2001.

 ... It is normally thought that policies and plans must be devised to cover whole systems. Systems thinking encourages people to take account of the impact of their actions across the whole system (Senge, 1990), Whole system consulting tries to "get the whole system in the room" (Owen, 1992; Weisbord and Janoff, 1995; Pratt, et. al., 1999). There is concern with whether the right people are being invited to get involved in change initiatives. To be at all worthwhile, interventions must aim at behavior change across the whole organization. Programs must be rolled out and rolled down an organization if they are to have any effect. The notion that policies and interventions are not much good if they do not cover the whole organization is thus widespread. The "patching" analogy (Kauffman, 1995) suggests that this "whole system" approach may not only be unnecessary for the production of coherent action but might actually be destabilizing and produce incoherence instead.



020211, Quote #243:
Nests of Time

Robert Grudin , Time and the Art of Living, p. 91, Houghton Mifflin, 1982.

When I speak of a nest of time, I mean any frequently repeated experience whose unique dynamics, intensity of involvement and regular length wall it off from other experiences and so establish a discrete psychological environment. While we habitually seek out nests in space, areas for privacy or intimacy or repose, we are relative novices in establishing these temporal havens, and slow in realizing that free space is useless without uncluttered time. Indeed, a nest of time need not require a special place at all: its only two requirements are that it concern some desirable activity and that it be, barring emergencies, inviolable. A writer sits down to work. It is nine in the morning, and the next four hours are free, just as they have been the day before and will be the day after, by his express decision and unequivocal need. He looks down those four hours as down a clear view of unencumbered space; more broadly, the regular work periods of the future open up like a long bright hallway of work in freedom. He has no need to fear wasted hour, an unproductive day, and conversely he has no time-related excuse for sloth or failure. Two lovers meet each evening from five to seven. Their activities vary but their intimacy does not. Whatever else they do during the day is redeemed by this period. A man goes jogging regularly, through the countryside or a park, for forty minutes. The stress of running is sufficient to make it the only thing he thinks of. Yet immediately beneath his awareness of the present, in the familiar landmarks and the familiar stresses, is the sense that he has done this before and will do this again, that he characteristically wills to do it, that in doing it he enters and enlarges a part of himself which is unavailable to him at other times. Such periods unify us, concentrating our energy, judgment and emotion upon a single point. Conversely, they relieve us from all other considerations and so give us profound refreshment. They give us, if temporarily, ourselves. They are true acts of freedom, compared with which our normal miscellaneous diversions and indulgences of impulse are like the fluttering of moths.

020205, Quote #242:
On The Verge, Part Two

Tachi Kiuchi and Bill Shireman, What We Learned In The Rainforest: Business Lessons From Nature, p. 152, Berrett-Koehler, 2002.

 Managing on the verge means mastering the overlap between two phases, which requires that you manage for both the current phase and the next one and, at just the right moment, make the leap between phases.

 To make the leap from innovation to growth, you must have the ability to choose winners from the innovative options on your menu, as well as the requisite discipline to focus your attention on them.

 To make the leap from growth to improvement you must develop the ability to generate different and better variations on your core products and services, as well as the requisite variety of people and skills to launch them as needed.

 To make the leap from improvement, to release, and finally to a new cycle of innovation, you must know the underlying mission and enduring purpose that gives life to your company, and have the requisite vision to express that mission in ways that follow the plans and serve the role your stakeholders expect from you.

020123, Quote #241:
Seeds of Survival & The Diversity of One

Michael Pollan , The Botany of Desire: A Plant's-Eye View of the World, pp. 10 - 11, Random House, 2001.

 Slice an apple through at its equator, and you will find five small chambers arrayed in a perfectly symmetrical starburst—a pentagram. Each of the chambers holds a seed (occasionally two) of such a deep lustrous brown they might have been oiled and polished by a woodworker....

 Every seed in that apple, not to mention every seed riding down the Ohio alongside Johnny Chapman [aka, Johnny Appleseed -ed.], contains the genetic instructions of a completely new and different apple tree, one that, if planted, would bear only the most glancing resemblance to its parents. If not for grafting—the ancient technique of cloning trees—every apple in the world would be its own distinct variety, and it would be impossible to keep a good one going beyond the life span of a particular tree. In the case of the apple, the fruit nearly always falls far from the tree.

The botanical term for this variability is "heterozygosity," and while there are many species that share it (our own included), in the apple the tendency is extreme. More than any other single trait, it is the apple's genetic variability—its ineluctable wildness—that accounts for its ability to make itself at home in places as different from one another as New England and New Zealand, Kazakhstan and California.

020123, Quote #240:
On The Verge, Part One

Tachi Kiuchi and Bill Shireman, What We Learned In The Rainforest: Business Lessons From Nature, pp. 10 - 11, Berrett-Koehler, 2002.

 When ecosystems overlap without nesting within one another, they define an ecological verge on which they may engage in a kind of battle. A verge is a rich mixture of ecosystems that happens where two distinct forms meet with each other and begin to intermix. Often, two species seek to inhabit the same niche, but they will not be successful. According to the competitive exclusion principle developed by biologist Garrett Hardin, at least one of the organisms must adapt or die. Thus, while nested systems may in effect cooperate, overlapping ones often foster competition. The competition often leads to co-adaptations in which the systems become interdependent, one bordering on or even nesting within the other.

 ... Hectare for hectare, its species diversity is hundreds of times the global average. Why is this important? Because it shows what happens when two systems are brought together, overlaid on the same territory—the mix of competition and cooperation, of destruction and creation. Verges are places of conflict, but also of positive change. They bring together diverse systems and set the stage either for their integration or for their destruction.

 Our economy, too, is on a verge. We are living between two great eras of civilization, between two ecological seasons.

020114, Quote #239:
Inverted Architectures: From Minescapes to Skyscraper

Gray Brechin, Imperial San Francisco: Urban Power, Earthly Ruin, p. 67, University of California Press, 1999.

 The necessary components for the skyscraper emerged from the mines years before the Hallidie Buiding or its taller neighbors in the finacial district appeared. Mining and mechanical journals, and the annual exhibitions of the Mechanics Institute, publicized those innovations. There they would have been available to the engineers and architects who created the first true skyscrapers in Chicago in the final two decades of the nineteenth century. Ventilators, high-speed safety elevators, the early use of electric lighting and telephones, all were demanded and paid for by the prodigious output and prospects of the hydraulic mines of California and the hardrock mines of the Comstock Lode. Moreover, the open framework of the Deidesheimer square set suggested to more than one observer an unprecedented kind of structure. "Imagine [the mine] hoisted out of the ground and left standing upon the surface," wrote reporter Dan De Quille. The viewer "would then see before him an immense structure, four or five times as large as the greatest hotel in America, about twice or three times as wide, and over two thousand feet high. The several levels of the mine would represent the floors of the building," all connected by a high-speed safety elevator called a "cage." The mine would look like a building with its walls removed in which hundreds of men could be seen working...

020102: Quote #238
Making Plans

Robert Grudin, Time and the Art of Living, p. 43, Mariner Books/Houghton Mifflin, 1982.

 Among the many good reasons for making plans is the fact that the future can be enjoyed as fully as the present or the past. But most of what we enjoy, we enjoy specifically. A contemplated week in Paris, pleasant as a generalized concept, becomes much more pleasant when we know that it will include a visit to the Sainte-Chapelle, afternoons at the Louvre and Cluny, a splurge, a stroll on the Ile St. Louis, an evening at the Opera preceded by cocktails at the cafe of the same name and followed by onion soup near the old site of Les Halles, a morning Metro-ride to the Jardin des Plantes or the Vincennes Zoo. In this way the projected days become a delightful union of the real and the ideal; and the future, huge yet as transparent and inconsequential as vacant sky, takes on dozens of meaningful shapes. People suspect that planning will shackle them; but, with moderation, this is almost never the case. If you make plans, you may always diverge from them—committing what is itself a pleasant act of freedom. If you do not make plans, you leave the future an empty field of chance, uselss to the present, forfeit to your own unpredictable moods. You insult time, and it turns away from you a face that could have been full of solace. And you imply to yourself that the two other dimensions of time, past and present, mean less to you than they might or should.

© MG Taylor Corporation, 1995 - 2002

iteration 3.5